Air Canada reveals 2011 Top Tier program

Air Canada has officially released the details of the 2011 Top Tier Program, and to most frequent flyers who participate in online communities the reaction is the same: the Top Tier program has been devalued once again. We will get to this point shortly, but to start, I will repost what Air Canada’s online representative on FlyerTalk posted onto that forum in the early hours of Dec 9 (it covers some of the features we have mentioned previously)

“Today (Dec 9) we’re launching the 2011 Air Canada Top Tier Program. We’d like to highlight some of the biggest program enhancements for 2011 right here.

Launch of eUpgrades

If there’s been one common message from our Top Tier members over the past few years, it’s been this: “Enough with the wallpaper!” Last year as we began work on our electronic upgrade product – known as “eUpgrades” – we kept this in mind and entirely rethought how our Top Tier upgrades work. In the end, we landed on something whereby all of the upgrade currency – now “eUpgrade Credits” – can be used more freely by tying it more closely to the Economy Class fare paid. Some key items worth mentioning:

  • As mentioned in earlier communications, eUpgrade Credits can be used for travel starting March 1, 2011. Note that those Top Tier members qualifying in December & January will receive extra 2010 Top Tier upgrade certificates for use for travel through February 28, 2011. Note that these will not and cannot be converted into eUpgrade Credits – they are simply a goodwill gesture for members who would like to upgrade prior to the launch of eUpgrades.

  • Regardless of where your original booking was made, you will always be able to request an upgrade for an eligible flight online at through your eUpgrade account. You’ll also be able to view transaction history.

  • Versus the 2010 upgrade certificate program, there are no major changes to eligible booking classes / booking windows. While the Tango Plus booking class “U” is no longer grouped with booking class “M” (as on our 2010 Top Tier upgrade certificates), this is due to the fact that we are not selling booking class “U” on a regular basis.

  • Beginning with the launch of eUpgrades in the airport on March 1, 2011, all waitlisted upgrade requests will be automatically transferred to our airport standby list. This means that you will no longer have to re-request your upgrade upon check-in if it hasn’t already cleared.

  • Now, all Top Tier members will enjoy the privilege of sharing their credits with eUpgrade Nominees, allowing the nominee to upgrade, even when the member is not traveling with them. However, the sponsoring Top Tier member will always be required to request the upgrade on behalf of their nominee.

  • Just a note that eUpgrade Credits will be deposited into the Top Tier member’s account within 48 hours of choosing eUpgrade Credits as a Select Privilege. Until the account is credited, it will not be possible to access the account, so don’t be concerned if you can’t log into your account immediately.

  • Also, for any December 2010 threshold upgrade activities, we will continue to send paper upgrade certificates. This is due to a system limitation associated with the launch of the eUpgrade program. However, going forward, we will be able to offer credits with a longer validity period for threshold upgrade activities which take place towards the end of a qualification year.

For full details on the program (upgrade request process, eligible bookings, credits required, etc), we invite you to visit We’ll be interested to see your feedback over the coming weeks, especially when the product launches in the airports, for travel on March 1, 2011.

New Super Elite Select Privilege: Maple Leaf Club for a Friend

Some of you may recall this as a Select Privilege we had a few years ago. We hope it’s interesting to Super Elite members who are looking for options other than eUpgrade Credits and/or Bonus Miles.

New Prestige Select Privilege: 35% Discount on Maple Leaf Club

We recognize Maple Leaf Lounge access is valuable to our Prestige members, hence the additional Maple Leaf Lounge One-Time Guest Pass included in one of our Select Privilege options this year. Furthermore, as you may recall from last year, we introduced a 15% Maple Leaf Club discount for all Prestige members, but your feedback made it clear that this was not enough. Therefore, this year we will offer a 35% Maple Leaf Club discount, applicable to all Maple Leaf Club membership options, as a Select Privilege. This is well over double (in some cases triple) the discount offered by other airlines to their equivalent tier members when purchasing lounge membership.

Air Canada Minimum Flight Requirement

In order to better manage the cost of our program, and to ensure that we’re delivering benefits to our true frequent flyers, we have introduced a “minimum flight requirement.” This will be considered during your 2012 Top Tier qualification year (January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011), so it will not impact your 2011 Top Tier status.

The flight requirement is 5 Status Flight Segments or 10,000 Status Miles on eligible flights operated by Air Canada or on behalf of Air Canada by Jazz, Air Georgian Limited (doing business as Air Alliance), Exploits Valley Air Services LTD, Central Mountain Air and Sky Regional Airlines. Note that you can reach the Minimum Flight Requirement on Status Flight Segments, even if you qualify based on Status Miles – or vice versa. You will be able to track your qualification towards this requirement online at beginning in the spring of 2011.

The minimum flight requirement counts as part of your regular qualification requirement, which remains the same for 2012:

  • To qualify for Super Elite, you will need 100,000 Status Miles or 95 Status Segments.

  • To qualify for Elite, you will need 35,000 Status Miles or 50 Status Segments.

  • To qualify for Prestige, you will need 25,000 Status Miles or 25 Status Segments.

We hope that you’ll be pleased with the changes we’re introducing this year, and as we mentioned last year, we will continue to refine the program based on your comments and ideas going forward.”

Now back to our post:

Top Tier Upgrade Program

As you can see the biggest change comes in the Upgrade department. Gone are the paper certificates that had to be handed in. Everything will be done electronically with the new eUpgrade credit system. This is where much of the dismay of loyal Air Canada flyers is coming from. Based on the numbers provided by Air Canada on how many eUpgrade credits will be awarded at the various tier levels (of which there are less then last year), members are finding out they are getting fewer upgrades then was seen previously. With the paper system, you had simply provided one certificate for a flight that you cleared the upgrade on (upgrade was either a North American, System wide or Super System wide Upgrade) Now, with the new eUpgrade credits, fare class and flights distance come into play as to how many credits you need to redeem for the upgrade. For example flight from Calgary to Houston will require 2 credits to upgrade a Latitude fare, 4 to 10 credits for Tango Plus.  So depending on your route and class, you may have been able to upgrade with one cert in 2010 but may not have enough credits to do the same in 2011. According to some of the posters Flyertalk, the biggest hit in comparison to previous years will come to those using upgrades for flights to Asia.

Really, the only good news to come out of the announcement for the upgrade portion of the Top Tier program is that you no longer have to carry paper certificates and you can share you eUpgrade with others even if you are not travelling with them

– To see how many eUpgrade credits are required to upgrade please see this Air Canada Chart

– To see how many eUpgrade credits are earned at the variou tier levels see this Air Canada Chart

Top Tier Select Privileges

As with previous years, Top Tier members can choose select privileges for their top tier level, this year they are as follows:

Super Elite

Pick 2 of 4

* 100% Top Tier Bonus with Air Canada and select airline partners

* 40 eUpgrade Credits

* 3,500 Bonus Air Canada Status Miles

* Complimentary Maple Leaf Club Membership for a Friend

Pick 2 of 3

* 20 eUpgrade Credits

* 2,000 Bonus Air Canada Status Miles

* 6 Maple Leaf Lounge Guest Passes

 Pick 1 of 2

* 12 eUpgrade Credits for Flight Pass Activities

* 2,500 Bonus Air Canada Status Miles for Flight Pass Activities


Pick 2 of 4

* 50% Top Tier Bonus with Air Canada and select airline partners

* 15 eUpgrade Credits

* 10 eUpgrade Credits

* 2,000 Bonus Air Canada Status Miles

Pick 2 of 3

* 10 eUpgrade Credits

* 1,000 Bonus Air Canada Status Miles

* 4 Maple Leaf Lounge Guest Passes

 Pick 1 of 2

* 8 eUpgrade Credits for Flight Pass Activities

* 1,250 Bonus Air Canada Status Miles for Flight Pass Activities


Pick 3 of 5

* 25% Top Tier Bonus with Air Canada and select airline partners

* 20 eUpgrade Credits

* 1,500 Bonus Air Canada Status Miles

* Maple Leaf Club Membership Discount

* 4 Maple Leaf Lounge Guest Passes

 Pick 1 of 2

* 4 eUpgrade Credits for Flight Pass Activities

* 750 Bonus Air Canada Status Miles for Flight Pass Activities

You can also view  the Top Tier Select properties on this Air Canada page

Minimum Flight Requirement

As we reported on Monday, to achieve Top Tier Status for 2012, Aeroplan members will have to complete some flights on Air Canada metal to be eligible for status. A minimum of 10,000 status miles or 5 status flight segments must be flown on AC or on behalf of AC (Air Georgian, Jazz, etc. see above). For the majority of current Top Tier members this is a non-issue as most of their flying is on Air Canada. What this new rule does is make it harder for those who do not fly Air Canada but earn miles and status into the Aeroplan program via partner airlines. Most of these people did it as the Air Canada program was one of the easiest to earn Star Alliance Gold status in (AC Elite Level).


Overall, based primarily on the new upgrade system, the benefits of Air Canada’s Top Tier program have been slightly eroded once again, but that also depends on who you talk to. For some frequent flyers this new system may actually be better, see this thread on Canflyer for an example. All in all this is the first go round for this new system for Air Canada and perhaps after they receive many negative emails from frequent flyers and get beaten up via all the social media channels, they will evaluate how the eUpgrade credits are awarded and spent (note to Air Canada: You don’t have to wait until 2012 to implement the changes, a positive change in the middle of the year will do you just as good)

In the end how will this affect the number of Top Tier members within Air Canada? I honestly don’t think it will affect them significantly. Every year when there has been some sort of devaluation, Air Canada’s frequent flyers (the vocal ones at least) state they are taking their business elsewhere but end up staying with AC. Now this may not hold true for all of them as some have jumped ship but overall with Air Canada’s position in the Canadian market, it is hard for frequent flyers to move to another program when in reality there are only two players in the domestic market, and the other player WestJet, has no business class to upgrade to or partner airlines to redeem miles on. So unless WestJet changes their business model and/or Air Canada actually sees a mass exodus of premium travellers, this yearly occurance of Air Canada annoucing the Top Tier benefits and the frequent flyers complaining will not change as Air Canada has a loose stranglehold on the premium market and the loyalty surronding it..


For all the details on the 2011 Air Canada Top Tier program please visit the Top Tier page on

To read what some Air Canada frequent flyers are saying and some responses from Air Canada please see this thread on Flyer Talk and this thread on Canflyer.

As always feel free to comment below!